One hundred thousand—that’s just a conservative estimate of the number of riders engaged in illegal habal-habal operations in Metro Manila alone. There could be more, especially in the provinces.
Clad in ordinary clothes, these riders hang around some 200 illegal habal-habal terminals, booking passengers via social media or through on-the-spot negotiations. In short, ride-hailing companies like Angkas don’t appeal to them.
These riders are prone to getting apprehended by police or traffic enforcers at checkpoints, but they don’t give a sh*t. More often than not, they earn more than Angkas riders who’ve spent much time and effort undergoing training and taking exams, because there’s no fare matrix or passenger insurance that exists in the habal-habal system.
So, why are these habal-habal riders still thriving despite being declared illegal by the government? Angeline Tham, CEO of Angkas, shared with us some of the reasons below; the rest are our personal observations on this hot topic. Read on.
Many of these habal-habal riders think all their years of riding experience already qualifies them to ferry passengers. Try arguing with them about riding skills and we bet you’ll be the first to raise the white flag because the conversation will go nowhere.
There are a number of habal-habal riders who had attempted to join Angkas, but failed the written and practical exams. Records show that roughly 70% of those who take the tests don’t make it to the actual training program. That’s one hell of a mortality rate.
But according to Tham, there’s no limit to the number of times you can retake the exam if you don’t pass in your last attempt—she even shared the story of one applicant who took the test seven times before he finally made it. And besides, Angkas does not charge applicants for training and exams.
In this age of connectivity, there are still a lot of people out there who are trying to familiarize themselves with smartphones and the Internet. Some habal-habal riders think they’re not capable of using gadgets, and do away with smartphones entirely. Instead, they wait around for willing passengers. At terminals, you will hear barkers shouting: “Habal-habal! Habal-habal!”
Angkas is very strict about the roadworthiness of the motorcycles used by their rider-partners—not only does the company set an age limit for the bikes, it’s also particular about brands. Only motorcycles of reputable brands are allowed to ensure the safety of Angkas passengers.
Angkas has seen a lot of applicants who have a very negative outlook and fear rejection. Based on feedback gathered by the company, many individuals are interested to join Angkas, but are held back by such a negative attitude.
By operating independently, habal-habal riders use their own fare matrix, which is reportedly double or triple the Angkas rates. These riders don’t care because they don’t have to answer to anyone. If an Angkas rider earns around P1,500 working eight to 10 hours a day, a habal-habal rider is raking in about double the amount. We’ve talked to some of them, and their common excuse is that they need grease money for traffic enforcers. We’re speechless.
To sum up, Tham thinks that these riders resist change. “We really felt this during the initial stage of our operations,” she said, adding that rider education is key to resolving this issue.
Considering all these, do you believe there is still hope that this controversial sector can be professionalized?